Over four hours, the double-decker bus wound its way through the Czech countryside taking us to the Austrian capital.
I feel like I say this about most cities, but Vienna is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. And really, this time, I mean it! Throughout our two days of exploring and wandering all three of us (me, Dave and our buddy who joined for the CentralEuro adventure), we were each blown away by just how beautiful the city and its architecture was.
And the scale.
I know the saying is “everything’s bigger in Texas,” but I think whoever coined that had never been to Vienna.
The city is huge. HUGE.
It’s not an expansive city, in fact, Vienna is actually quite compact and walkable. It’s just the buildings. They. Are. HUGE. Around every turn, we would find ourselves in front of a palace standing hundreds of metres tall and hundreds of metres wide.
With just under 48 hours to explore the city, we tried to explore as much as possible, taking in the sights, the sounds and spectacles of Vienna.
Vienna (or Wien as it’s locally known) is the capital city of Austria and home to nearly one-third of the country’s population. It is the Austrian centre of economic, political and cultural activity and is one of the richest centres in all of Europe.
Evidence suggests that Vienna has been continuously inhabited since 500 BC. It rose to prominence in the mid-12th century when the Babenberg family moved it’s residency to Vienna, making it the centre of the Babenberg dynasty. From the Babenbergs and the Hapsburgs to the Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, Vienna has always played a major role in European and World Politics.
Vienna is also very well known for its quality of life. It is regularly voted as one of the most liveable cities in the world, and after visiting it’s easy to see why.
What to See
Ringstrasse (or the Ring Road) is a circular road that surrounds central Vienna. It was built in the mid-19th century to replace the walls that formerly surrounded the city. Today, Ringstrasse is used by tourists and citizens alike for biking and walking around the city and seeing the various sights.
Mozart Monument (Mozartdenkmal)
One of the first things we saw in Vienna was the Mozart Monument (Mozartdenkmal), which is located at the entrance at the Ringstrasse of the Burggarten of the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. It was fitting to start our exploration of Vienna with Mozart as he is definitely one of the city’s most famous residents.
Our second (and only full-day) of exploration in Vienna started in the Museumsquartier. This area is the seventh largest district in Vienna and is home to most of the city’s museums, including the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) and the Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History), which are pictured below.
The Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches Museums are formidable buildings. Standing on either side of Maria-Theresien-Platz, these opulent and elaborate palaces, which are home to some incredible works of art and artefacts. Both were built between 1872 and 1891, and they are incredible; the scale of each building and the detail of the facades is something that took our breath away.
From the Museumsquartier, we continued walking along Ringstrasse and quickly found ourselves outside of the Austrian Parliament building.
Built between 1874 and 1883, the Austrian Parliament Building covers more than 13,500 square metres and is located just a stones-throw from attractions such as Hofburg Palace and the Museumsquartier. It was built in the neo-Greek style and features symbols and allegories of the 17 provinces of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire (source).
Like most buildings in Vienna, it is an elaborate palace, rich with detail and history.
We continued along the Ringstrasse until we arrived at the Rathaus (or city hall), the centre of Viennese political activity.
The Rathaus was built in the late-19th century when the old city hall building became just too small. Inspired by the Gothic architecture of the Brussels Town Hall, a richly adorned and detail facade was built and quickly became a symbol of Vienna.
Over the years, it has been the home to many performances, including the premiere of three of Mozarts operas, as well as the premiere of Beethoven’s 1st Symphony in 1800.
Moving off the Ringstrasse, we made our way towards the centre of Vienna and to Hofburg Palace. This former imperial palace if the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria.
As per Wikipedia: “Built in the 13th century and expanded in the centuries since, the palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history, including monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”
The Hofburg Palace is another example of the palatial scale of buildings in Vienna. We couldn’t get over just how big it was or how far the grounds stretched.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral (or Stephansdom) is the most important religious building in Vienna, and one of the city’s most recognisable symbols.
Located in the centre of Vienna, the cathedral was completed in the mid-12th century and “has borne witness to many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history” (source).
The cathedral’s towers stand at 136m tall and can be seen from throughout the city. As we approached the massive building, we were immediately amused by the ornate, multicoloured roof, which is covered in some 230,000 glazed tiles in various colours.
Vienna State Opera
The Vienna State Opera House–and Opera Company–are one of the most famous in the world. It was one of the first buildings constructed on Vienna’s Ringstrasse and it’s certainly one of the most beautiful. A fact you’ll just have to trust me on because I don’t have a picture to prove it.
I’m not sure how it happened, we passed the opera house numerous times each day, and yet we failed to get a picture of the outside. Oops. #bloggerfail.
The Vienna State Opera puts on a total of 300 performances each year, making it one of the busiest in the world. We didn’t go to Vienna with the intention of going to the opera (we certainly hadn’t packed for the opera) but when the chance came up we thought why not.
I mean, when in Vienna.
Each day, two hours before the performance, the Opera House opens their doors to those who want to purchase a “standing room only” ticket. For just €3 or €4, depending on which section you want to stand in, you can experience the famous Viennese Opera–or ballet, which is what we saw.
In the end, we spent an hour or so waiting in line, and there was an additional 30 minutes spent jockeying for position when someone tried to flat out steal our standing spaces, but it was all worth it to get a glimpse of this beautiful and ornate theatre, and take in a world famous performance.
Naschmarkt is an outdoor market and the most popular in Vienna. It stretches nearly 1.5 kilometers through central Vienna, offering everything from clothes to foods to wines.
We spent a significant amount of time at Naschmarkt, exploring the stalls, sipping on wines and sampling the foods, including a delicious pork knuckle that I devoured for lunch.
Although we were only able to dedicate two days of our CentralEuro adventure to Vienna, we all had an amazing time exploring this palatial, elaborate and ornate city.
Please Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. All thoughts, feelings and opinions shared on this blog and in this post are my own.